Shallow Water for Summer Browns

by T&T on August 13, 2012

Kent Klewein, Blue Ridge, GA
Over the years, I’ve made the mistake many times of walking past trout water that I thought was too shallow to hold trout. Most of the year trout prefer depth transitions where shallow water gradually flows into deeper water. These transitions provide shelter from excessive current, and locating them is usually the ticket to locating and consistently catching trout. However, during the summer months, brown trout particularly will often disregard these areas, opting instead to hold tight to the banks in extremely shallow water. They do this to take advantage of terrestrials falling into the water, but I think they also do it because there’s generally shade available and they instinctively know it’s a good spot for them to remain largely undetected.

Kissing your beetles, ants and hopper patterns against the banks during the summer months is a great tactic for targeting big mature brown trout. It’s great to have a nice current seam or foam line near by, but it’s not mandatory. The most important variable in targeting water against the banks is having stream bank foliage or undercut banks.

Trout water flows during the summer months generally runs low from the lack of rainfall. These low flows have trout spooky and very aware of their surroundings. Fly fishing during the summer season demands stealth and a good first presentation to increase chances of catching fish. When guiding clients in the summer, we slow down and work as a team. I’d rather have quality presentations over quantity. The first tip I teach my clients is to scan likely holding water before casting. Quite often, your best shot is to catch a big brown trout off guard, and your best shot at doing that is to make an accurate presentation and drift right off the bat. Scan likely holding water for white mouths opening and closing and look for the tails of fish slowly kicking in the current. The shadow of a fish is another give-away.

Slapping your fly down on the water can be a powerful way to trigger an aggressive take. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work and in some cases can spook the fish. Another tactic is to subtly twitch the fly when it enters the fish field of vision once or twice. A brown trout that’s positioned close to the bank and regularly feeding on terrestrials gets very accustomed to seeing struggling movements from land-born insects that have fallen in the water. So keep this in mind if a standard dead-drift isn’t working.

Work the fish with your leader during your presentation and drift, while keeping your fly line out of the fish’s sight during the cast and drift. If I know I’m gong to be dealing with educated trout, I sometimes will lengthen my leader a few feet to give me extra stealth. A lot of fly anglers will tell you that the best terrestrial fishing is during the middle and afternoon of the day when the bugs are the most active. Although this can be the case, I’ve found my best chances at fooling big brown trout is during the early morning hours, or last couple hours of the day when the sun is low in the horizon. Big brown trout tend to feed more during these times and feel more comfortable and safe.

For more fly fishing tips from Kent, be sure to visit Gink + Gasoline.

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